Microscale Experimentation

Micro reactors and devices that can process and analyse very, very small amounts of chemicals is an area that is rapidly advancing, with applications in both the analytical and synthetic laboratories and also in full-scale manufacture [B-15, B-16]. This area is also known by the jargon term, lab-on-a-chip, as many of the devices are sub-millimetre scale, integrated chemical systems built by the microfabrication techniques developed in the electronics industry.

This reduction in size and the integration with multiple functions offer capabilities beyond the conventional macro reactors, namely:

• Adding new functionality

• Potentially lower cost due to the mass production techniques common in the chip industry

• Lower maintenance and operation costs

• Lower power consumption

• Safer operation

The miniaturisation of analytical devices has obvious uses in high throughput screening in drug discovery and the developments are being driven along by collaboration between instrument manufacturers and the large pharmaceutical companies. The term "miniaturised total analysis system" or "|TAS" is also used in the analytical field.

In the first decade of this new century, micro reactors are forecast to take over many of the function currently carried out in the laboratory and make their mark on the manufacturing plant [B-43, B-44]. To date the main areas of development have been:

• Analytical systems for DNA sequencing

• Systems for high throughput screening

• Analytical Systems in defence uses against chemical and biological weapons

• Devices for point of care clinical analyses

• Microreactors for hazardous chemical reactions

"DuPont have described a microreactor for carrying out hazardous reactions. This is fabricated from layers of wafer-like disks with precise interior channels formed on the disk surfaces to contain the reactions. Each microreactor is an integrated system designed to perform a specific process including mixing, heat exchange, catalysis, reaction, photoreaction, electrochemical, separation and analysis/control of reactions involving gases, liquids, as well as multiphases. The channels within these layers measuring a mere 10 to 5000 micrometers across and connected to the inlet and outlet ports are formed by any number of techniques depending on the material used: chemical etching, electrochemical machining, laser machining, electroforming, selective plating, chemical vapour deposition, photo-forming, moulding, casting and stamping. The size and versatility of these mi-croreactors make them ideal for lab bench processes as well as volume production in which dozens, even hundreds, of devices can be operated in parallel to produce potentially millions of pounds of chemicals a year" [B-45]

• Continuous processing in the production of fine chemicals

In 2004 Clariant set up a new centre for the development of microreactor technology in Frankfurt, Germany, called the Clariant Competence Center for Mi-croReaction Technology. Its facilities include two microreactor pilot plants and a dedicated laboratory. Clariant says that by using parallel microreactor modules makes it possible to turn out kilogram or even ton quantities of a product [B-46],

With the use of microreactors rapidly increasing, the laboratory manager, in dealing with what will certainly be multi-disciplinary teams working at the forefront of technology, will have to employ the interpersonal skills described elsewhere in this book.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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